Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Joni Mitchell, Part II

As promised, part II of Joni Mitchell's amazing body of work.

After Blue, Joni began to branch out a bit, infusing her traditional folk with rock and jazz.

The transition albums are both interesting and beautiful, but different from her early work, so don't listen to them with preconceived ideas.

For the Roses (1971) contains some of my favorite of Joni's lyrics. Listen in particular to "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire", "For the Roses" and "A Woman of Heart and Mind," which contains possibly my favorite of all her lyrics: "I am a woman of heart and mind, with time on her hands..." (Incidentally, the American Masters profile that I netflixed last weekend is called "Joni Mitchell, Woman of Heart and Mind" and I completely recommend it to anyone interested in learning about true artistic integrity.)

Court and Spark (1974) continues the transition period. Listen to "Raised on Robbery," "People's Parties," and "Free Man in Paris."

The next studio album she released was The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975), which completed her evolution from folk chanteuse to bold artist. All Music Guide refers to this as "among her most difficult records." I agree it is the most divergent from the albums that came before it and there is no stand alone gem of a song, but taken as a whole, it is a haunting and beautiful record. (Although I agree that If you're new to her repertoire, you may want to start with the next album I mention.)

A good overview of this period in her artistic life is the live album Miles of Aisles (1973) (which may be my favorite title for a live album ever.) It includes some beautiful, traditional renditions of many of her early hits, some reworked versions of early hits and many of the songs I mentioned from the transition albums. For many songs, she is joined onstage by the L.A. Express, a band she worked with during this period, which gives it a more pop-infused sound. Some songs sound dated now, but for the most part, it is an excellent inroduction to mid-period Joni Mitchell.

Stay tuned for jazz-period Joni.

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